Photos: Rahin Sadman Islam
In the late 90s, dirt bikes could cause instant palpitations of desire in pretty-much every kid about to finish school or just get into college. Only the coolest dance-pop fans had one. The top of the class was Honda's XL 185. The sensation you had doing a sudden first gear pull was the most fun thing you could do, legally. Or with pants on.
The XLs have long since disappeared from view and the popularity of dirt bikes seems to have waned, although the motorcycle market expanded and saturated with new inventories over the years.
It is not surprising that Kawasaki has launched in Bangladesh with just four bikes and two of them are for off-roading. With tyres made for dirt, the more serious, no-nonsense one is the KLX 150.
Although the wide fender and ground clearance may suggest otherwise, it's so light and manageable that anyone could step into the world of two-wheels with it.
The carb-fed 144cc engine delivers 11.5 HP and 8.3 lb-ft torque, which may not seem particularly impressive when compared to other bikes of similar displacement. But with a wet weight of just 118 kg it more than compensates for the couple of missing HP. It's not the lightest dirt bike in the world, but there is hardly anything that can come close in the local market.
The monstrous fender clearance and seat height partially disappears with the weight of an average person. Since we tested it on the potholed and bumpy streets of Dhaka, the rear mono shock was lowered. As the front wheel is bigger than the rear by three inches, it looks astonishingly poised in that setup, not to mention the additional stability gained from the stiffer shocks.
You sit on it the way your grandma taught you to sit: upright, no crouching or leaning forward. When it comes to low-speed manoeuvring and turning within small spaces, the KLX is almost idiot-proof. If it falls, you can just pick it up effortlessly. Everything is within easy reach as well, from the 'bars, to the controls and foot controls, with both the gear change lever and rear brake in just the right spot for ease of use. One downside is that the dash only displays speed and fuel level— nothing to tell you which gear you are on, a feature you find quite useful once you get accustomed to it.
As you rev up and release the clutch, you can't stop smiling when you notice that no other bike around makes that distinctive throaty noise from the single cylinder. On the road, it accelerates quite fast and stops quick enough to make you more confident, thanks to the large discs on both wheels. On long stretches of open road, it is not as fast as your semi-sport or standard bike. The off-road tyres act differently from regular ones while turning at speed. For small distance commuting within the city, nothing can beat the ride comfort it delivers. If you ever attempt to climb stairs with the Kawasaki, your chances of success will proportionately increase.
There are foot pegs for a pillion, but will not be too comfortable for passengers. The seat is small like it should be on a dirt bike. Moreover, the exhaust pipe under the pillion seat gets quite hot and your date would feel that.
Although the price is close to the premium range, it'll enjoy a niche market created by both young riders and those looking for proper off-roading. There is nothing in the segment to compete with this in the market.
The KLX150 is available through Asian Motorbikes Ltd, starting from a price of TK 3,70,000.